A navy and red building sits on the corner of Market Street and 24th Avenue in Ballard. It houses Hotel Albatross, Sexy Alley Puffy Tacos and Ocho’s Restaurant. On the opposite side, featuring the same paint pattern, sits an underground art gallery.
Push/Pull’s mission is to flip the idea of art on its head. The gallery is comprised of professionals who learned art by the book and decided to abandon the rules, as well as professional artists who never learned any of the rules. It seeks to encourage emerging artists, illustrators and cartoonists, as well as stimulate diversity by seeking out under- represented artists.
Push/Pull began in 2013 as part of a collective, and over the past four years has broken off, completed a successful Kickstarter campaign to move to their own location in Ballard, and later became a cooperative business, meaning there are no bosses and no employees. All members of the gallery have a say in how the business is run, as well as responsibilities of its successful operation.
Maxx Follis, Director of Push/Pull, described the details of what she hoped for in 2013.
“There were things that I wanted to do curatorially that I felt needed a new venue to happen,” Follis said. “I wanted to create a space with a gift shop area since artists are much more likely to have regular revenue from merchandise than original artwork. I also wanted a space that welcomed illustration and graphic arts alongside more traditional fine art mediums.”
Now, in 2017, Push/Pull contains exactly what she described. The gift shop area of the gallery contains pins, patches and zines, while artwork lines the walls of every room, even the bathroom. Push/Pull represents about 150 artists total, and contains artwork in-house of almost 80 of them.
“As a business that runs on selling creative works we always want to see the quality and skill of the artists improving,” Follis said. “We’ve found the best way for this to happen is for artists to get out of their bubble. We’ve found that better art comes from getting feedback and considering it before deciding a piece is done.”
So the members of Push/Pull created Fresh Look. Fresh Look is based loosely off of memories of peer critiques in art school that pushed them to create better work. Fresh Look is a monthly event where artists of all ages can bring completed pieces, drafts and anything in between for critique and peer review by other artists in the Seattle area.
“In an academic setting, such as any type of art or design class, you are constantly getting feedback on your work because that’s part of the whole learning process,” said second-year digital design student Greta White. “And then if you go into a visual career field that usually continues, but so many people who don’t work in art and do it on the side might not have that place where they can get inspired and critiqued. I’d love to bring work to Fresh Look at Push/Pull because I think getting as much feedback as possible can really help you develop.”
In addition to serving as a space for artists’ work to thrive, Push/Pull also aims to innovate the way art is consumed by presenting it in a unique environment and with nontraditional events. The gallery has hosted Make Your Own Font parties and Nerd Grinders, in addition to their recurring events such as Fresh Look.
Local artist and Seattle U alumna Bella Pham says, “All artists share a collective mindset of creating something bigger than ourselves, something to show to the world, so for someone that is new to art or even for someone not so new, an event like this creates a community that is badly needed,” said Pham. “Speaking as an emerging artist, I close myself off to just do me and do my art, so to have an event where you get to share your work with other people who think like you and who get you is really important.”
Fresh Look happens on the first Sunday of every month from 6-9 p.m., and is open to anyone looking for critique and insight on his or her art from fellow artists, illustrators, designers and cartoonists.
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